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Tech News – April 15, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

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Specialized Roubaix Pro
The Roubaix Pro seatstays
The Zertz inserts
Try it on the really rough sections here...
Andris Nauduzs takes to the cobbles

Specialized rolls out the Roubaix Pro at Roubaix

By Chris Henry

Domina Vacanze bike sponsor Specialized grabbed the opportunity of Paris-Roubaix to roll out the latest incarnation of its shock-absorbing Roubaix Pro frame. Specialized spent last year fine-tuning this bike, which uses visco-elastic 'Zertz' inserts in the seatstays, fork and seatpost to reduce the vibration that gets through to the rider.

The heart of the Roubaix Pro's all-carbon frame is a monocoque main triangle, with chainstays and seatstays bonded to the front triangle and then over-wrapped with carbon. This is claimed to provide a stronger (and lighter) frame than traditional bonding of individual tubes.

Specialized founder and CEO Mike Sinyard, explained to Cyclingnews what the Roubaix is all about. "For too long, to get maximum speed you had to put up with maximum discomfort," said Sinyard. "What we're after here is a shift in paradigm, that better performance can come out of increased comfort. The result is a bit of a hybrid, like a cross between a Ferrari and a Mercedes."

"We introduced the first prototype last year at [Tour of Flanders & Paris-Roubaix], then at the Vuelta with the full carbon bike, and Michele Scarponi has been riding the bike all the time now, not just on the rough stuff. A lot of the riders are adapting to riding the bike all the time."

American-designed bikes have traditionally been steep, agile criterium rigs, but in search of all-day comfort, Specialized has configured the Roubaix more like a traditional European stage race or Classics bike. The bike features a longer than average wheelbase relative to most racing frames while retaining traditional trail. The head angle is reduced but the fork's rake is increased.

At the same time, it's no heavyweight. In fact, Sinyard says that's the first thing riders notice. "I think the feedback is about the bike being so light, and also so stiff at the bottom bracket," he said. "It's one thing to make the bike and put it on the jig and show that it's stiff, but it's another thing to ride it. It's really stiff, and really a fast bike. I think the other thing people notice is that the little extra wheel base makes it really carve down the hills. It's so stable."

Suitably informed, Cyclingnews took off for a spin on the pavé of Haveluy, Foret d'Arenberg, Wallers, and Hornaing with Domina Vacanze riders Andris Nauduzs, David Clinger, and Alexandre Bazhenov. First impressions are that the Roubaix does indeed do what's claimed. It's comfortable without feeling sluggish, accelerates quickly, and all those cobblestone wallops were going somewhere other than straight into my wrists and elbows.

We'll be testing the Roubaix pro more extensively over the coming months. Look out for a review in a while, when we've got in some serious saddle time.

Reynolds Composites goes aluminium

Reynolds Composites is on something of a roll at the moment. The company's carbon fiber wheels have been a big hit, with trade tech website biketechreview.com recently recording them as the second most common wheels at the prologue of the Redlands Classic, after industry leader Mavic.

Reyenolds is about to branch out from composites into aluminium wheels, according to Steve Santel at Reynolds Composites, who told Cyclingnews, "This will be our first aluminum effort so we are really excited about getting the news out. We aren't trying to reinvent the wheel so don't get your hopes up for a four-spoke aluminum wheel that weights 1200 grams. We think it's pretty cool and we are excited about getting our aluminum wheel program started."

The time to get excited, says Santel, will be the fall when "we will be bringing out the first all %*&(%) ^&% @*&$%)^. I bet you're as excited as I am just hearing about it." Don't you just love being teased by PR guys?

Scott USA returns with Scott from the USA at the helm

Scott USA's flagship CR1 Team Issue

Former Cannondale vice-president Scott Montgomery is having a busy week when Cyclingnews catches up with him in his new digs in Sun Valley, Idaho. Montgomery's latest gig is as head of Scott USA's new US bike sales and distribution arm, and he's just coming to the end of the first week of what he hopes will be a 20-year project.

Despite the name, Scott USA has been a European-based company for the last several years, at least as far as the bike side of the company goes. Scott pulled out of bike sales in the US in 1997 to concentrate on the European market, where its bikes have been very successful and are highly regarded.

Montgomery was let go from Cannondale, the bike manufacturer founded in 1971 by his father, last year after the company was bought out following a period of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But Montgomery refuses to be drawn on history, or on the foray into motorbikes and quads that most industry observers believe was Cannondale's downfall.

Instead, he's upbeat about the reaction he's getting to the return of Scott USA bikes to the USA. "I am amazed at the many positive calls that have come from dealers and potential employees," he says.

The obvious question is whether the US market is already too crowded with high-end bikes to accommodate another line-up.

"It is and it isn't," says Montgomery. "Last time I counted there were 145 bike brands in the EU and 61 in the USA, so in Europe Scott is very successful against more than twice as many brands. Plus there's lots of change happening in the US market, so I think Scott can occupy a niche, say, above Specialized but below Cannondale."

If there is a niche in there, Montgomery is sure that one bike in particular is going to prise it open. "The CR1 Team Issue is what's causing the most excitement for Scott," he says. "It's a beautiful bike with a 895g frame and a very light fork. And what's true for everyone at the moment is true for Scott - nobody can keep carbon fiber road bikes in stock."

Undeniably 2004 is turning out to be the year of carbon. Other suppliers of carbon bikes tell the same story, talking incredulously of unprecedented sales.

"I see as clearly as my father did with aluminium in the '80s that carbon is taking over," says Montgomery. "In a few years' time I doubt you will see many high end bikes that are not carbon. It will happen in mountain bikes too; in cross-country bikes where people will go for a bike that's lighter and more comfortable."

"The road market in the US is booming at the moment and I think it's down to two things. First there's the Lance effect and second there's the Outdoor Life Network bringing pro cycling into people's homes. The other factor is demographics. There's a boom in the 35-55 year old market, and these are people who can't abuse their bodies mountain biking the way they used to, and they find road cycling has more accessibility. They don't have time to drive to go mountain biking."

If Scott USA is putting its emphasis on road bikes, then the company's existing sponsorship arrangement with the Saunier Duval team is a perfect synergy, especially as the Spanish squad has picked up former Saturn rider Tim Johnson for the 2004 season. Involvement with a US domestic team is a possibility down the line, but for the short-term, "I want to focus on Saunier Duval and Tim Johnson," says Montgomery. "They will be over for the Tour of Georgia, Wachovia and the T-Mobile GP. Right now there's a lot to talk about there so no need for a domestic presence yet."

IRD's new bar

IRD B2 bar

One of the most interesting areas of product development at the moment is in carbon fiber handlebars, where the versatility of the material is allowing manufacturers to mess around with all sorts of unusual shapes and configurations, including the very light but wallet-emptyingly expensive one-piece bar and stem combos we've seen from companies such as Cinelli.

Oregon's Interloc racing Design has joined the fray with its B2 Carbon Drop Bar. The B2 weighs 220g, according to IRD, and is available in 31.8mm centre and in 42cm and 44cm widths. It'll set you back a cool $298.99, but that might be a small price to pay if it's as comfortable as IRD claim.


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